Chapelfell Top

Chapelfell Top

Chapelfell Top is one of the more prominent moorland summits over 2,000ft in height on the long Teesdale / Weardale watershed.

Height (m): 703
Height (ft): 2306
Prominence (m): 142
Classification: HuMP, Hewitt, Nuttall
Hill No: 2722
Grid Ref: NY875347
OS Map OL31
No. of Visits 3

There are only eight summits in the North Pennines that manage to have a prominence of over 100m. With a prominence of 142m Chapelfell Top is therefore one of the most prominent fells in the North Pennines. Indeed it is sixth behind Cross Fell, Mickle Fell, Burnhope Seat, Cold Fell and Dufton Pike.

The view of Chapelfell Top from Cronkley Fell in upper Teesdale
The view of Chapelfell Top from Cronkley Fell in upper Teesdale

As with a number of the fells in the area the slopes of Chapelfell Top have been heavily quarried in the past. The most notable are on the western side of the fell, Harthope Bank Quarry and Harthope Head Quarry. The latter is situated at the top of the road between Langdon Beck and St John’s Chapel. At over 2000ft above sea level this is the easiest place to approach the summit from. It is a simple case of following the fence for almost a mile before striking out for the summit.

Harthope Head Quarry, the largest of a number of quarries on the flanks of Chapelfell Top
Harthope Head Quarry, the largest of a number of quarries on the flanks of Chapelfell Top

Another fairly high level start is from Swinhope Bridge on the eastern side of the fell. This involves a pathless route to a sheepfold before climbing in a north-westerly direction to the ruined hut called Cockran’s Cabin. Continuing in the same direction a wide, shallow grassy ditch is encountered. Turning south-west following this as it becomes more peaty eventually brings you to the summit.

The ruins of Cockran's Cabin, encountered on the climb from Swinhope Bridge
The ruins of Cockran’s Cabin, encountered on the climb from Swinhope Bridge

There are other options that start from much further down in the valleys. To the north a bridleway climbs up from the backroad between Daddryshield and Haswicks. This emerges on to the open fellside above Daddryshield Burn. Following a broken wall will bring you to a rusty gate climbing over which brings you on to the fellside at Cleugh Head. From there it is a pathless climb to the top. Another possible starting point in Weardale is from St John’s Chapel. This might be a suitable starting point if for no other reason than that the fell is quite probably named after the village.

Looking across Weardale towards Chapelfell Top
Looking across Weardale towards Chapelfell Top

To the south there is a good track climbing up from Forest-in-Teesdale passing High Hurth Scar on its way to the shallow quarry and prominent cairns at Church Bowers. From there it is a short climb uphill to Fendrith Hill and then on to Chapelfell Top.

The unmarked 703m spot height looking north to the larger cairn.
The unmarked 703m spot height looking north to the larger cairn.

Although situated on the Tees / Wear watershed Chapelfell Top favours the Weardale side whereas the subsidary summit of Fendrith Hill overlooks Teesdale. The broad summit area is heavily eroded with shallow peat hags and groughs predominant. In wet conditions it can be tough going and it is probably a summit best avoided in poor visibility unless you are using GPS.

The small pile of stones and wooden stake marking the highest point.
The small pile of stones and wooden stake marking the highest point.

There are a few candidates for the highest point. The 703m spot height shown on the Ordnance Survey map is unmarked. The Hill Bagging website lists the highest point as being about 200m north. Here there is a small pile of stones near a wooden stake. About 40m to the north-east of this is a larger pile of stones. Of a poor selection of choices this is the more satisfying for summit photos despite it apparently being a foot lower.

The view towards Cross Fell and Burnhope Seat from the largest cairn
The view towards Cross Fell and Burnhope Seat from the largest cairn

Due to the broad peaty nature of the summit there is not much depth to the view. On a clear day though many of the higher fells of the North Pennines can be seen, especially the Cross Fell range to the west and Great Stony Hill and Burnhope Seat to the north-west.

Chapelfell Top Walks

20th August 2020 – Distance: 9.5 miles: Westgate – Swinhopeburn – New Close – Blackhill Edge – Swinhope Head – Dora’s Seat – Fendrith Hill – Chapelfell Top – Cleugh Head – Windyside Pastures – Westgate.
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8th September 2018 – Distance: 10.7 miles: Forest-in-Teesdale – High Hurth Scar – Church Bowers – Harthope Bank Quarry – Harthope Head Quarry – Chapelfell Top – Fendrith Hill – Dora’s Seat – Swinhope Head – EttersgilL Common – Bank Top – Forest-in-Teesdale.
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6th March 2007 – Distance: 8.0 miles: Swinhope Bridge – Cockran’s Cabin – Chapelfell Top – Fendrith Hill – Dora’s Seat – Westernhope Moor – Swinhopehead House – Swinhope Bridge.
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